Published in 1929, Ernest Hemingway finished A Farewell to Arms when he was barely 30 years old. Hemingway had been planning on writing about World War I for more than a decade, and chose A Farewell to Arms to be his attempt at a blockbuster, a novel which would sell very well.1 This view is supported by the fact that one of Hemingway's original works, presumably loss in the fiasco of Hadley's luggage, was also a war novel, emphasizing Hemingway's firm belief in the importance of war and love as a theme. By this time, of course, Hemingway was already fairly well known, having already published four short story collections and one successful novel in The Sun Also Rises. In this sense, Hemingway's timing in his quest for a big seller was perfect. Fortunately for Hemingway the book did sell, and although he was already close to being a bestseller at the time of A Farewell to Arms publishing, the novel went on to lead best-seller lists after only a few weeks in publication. In contrast to the lack of money-making power of Fitzgerald's novels, A Farewell to Arms sold 45,000 copies in only seven weeks; in fact, the interest in the book was so high Scribner's had to renegotiate Hemingway's contract following the unexpectedly large sales statistics.2
Although at this time declaring the novel a popular success almost worked against its being recognized as a good literary work, the initial reception for A Farewell to Arms was nonetheless strong. Especially impressed were the people Hemingway cared about the most: his fellow famous writers. Ford Madox Ford, in an introduction he wrote for a 1932 publication of the novel, wrote of Hemingway: "The aim - the achieveme...
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...positive reception from his peers. Although in later years Hemingway turns on many of these fellow writers who praised him so lavishly, (see responding to Fitzgerald's 10 pages of criticism with "kiss my ass") their critical acclaim helped launch him to "writer superstardom."
1 Linda Wagner-Martin. Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms: A Reference Guide. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT (2003), p. viii.
2 Ibid., p. i-viii.
3 Ford Madox Ford in "Introduction to Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms" (1932) p. 246, from Wagner-Martin "Reference Guide."
6 Ray B. West (1949) in Harold Bloom. Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms: Modern Critical Interpretations. Chelsea House Publishers, New York, 1987. p. 36.
7 Charles R. Anderson (1961) from Ibid., p. 46.
9 Wagner-Martin, p. 175-180.
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